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Story of Lake Limboto portrayed through Iwan Yusuf's painting

Story of Lake Limboto portrayed through Iwan Yusuf's painting

A painting titled "AKAD" by artist Iwan Yusuf exhibited around Gorontalo in 2020. (Debby Mano)

This traveling exhibition program offers an extraordinary inner experience for us that we never exist without doing anything
The painting "AKAD" by Iwan Yusuf, a Gorontalo-born painter, evokes a gush of emotions, admiration, and sadness.

The canvas, measuring 130 x 178 centimeters, presents a game of oil paint, with a palette knife and brush strokes.

Looking closer, this painting bears resemblance to a wooden embossed pattern, with blue and red paint peeling off hither and thither.

Some people will immediately gather that it is a type of boat, albeit in the form of two interlocking rings.

AKAD is the second work of the boat deformation series by Yusuf while in Gorontalo in March 2020.

The painting is the second work created in its native land after the first painting titled “Nine Months” in 2017.

This painter, known for his hyperrealism, had earlier worked on dozens of other boat series at the Iwan Painting Studio in Batu, East Java.

AKAD was inspired by the legend of the peace of two kingdoms in Gorontalo -- Hulondalo and Limutu -- in 1673.

It is said that the two leaders of the kingdom linked their rings to each other and flung them into Limboto Lake. They then vowed that there would be no more war in the land as long as the rings were not found.

Awaludin, a cultural activist at the Huntu Art District (Hatrdisk), an art studio based in Huntu Selatan Village, Bone Bolango District, then initiated a special traveling exhibition for the painting from September to October 2020.

AKAD was indeed proposed by a collector in East Java in April 2020.

However, the collector allowed the painting to be displayed at several people's homes in Gorontalo.

“There are nine houses, and the family is lucky to enjoy this painting privately. They were chosen by Iwan himself. Iwan and the Hartdisk team also arrange the work on the walls and the lighting,” HARTDISK Coordinator Awaludin stated, Sunday.

Selection of the nine people was based on various technical and background considerations, especially their connection to the condition of Limboto Lake.

The work is displayed for an average of two to three days in one house. Every visitor can pen his or her response on the aesthetic and historical experiences of Limboto Lake.

"The expected appreciation of the work is not about Iwan Yusuf personally but refers to Limboto Lake and its problems," Awal stated.


Reviewing the lake

After being exhibited around, there were varied responses about Lake Limboto from people, who had got the opportunity to appreciate the finer details of "AKAD" at their residence.

Most of them expressed hope, recalled memories and stories, and voiced their aspirations for "healing" Limboto Lake, one of the 15 lakes across Indonesia in critical condition.

Terri Repi, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Muhammadiyah Gorontalo, gauged that the painting, in essence, mirrored his anxiety about forgotten things in the management of Limboto Lake.

Repi pointed out that the depth of water in Limboto Lake had become shallow, and the lake area had become narrow.

The 2009 National Conference of Lake Indonesia in Bali agreed on according priority to the 15 critical lakes, including Limboto Lake.

Aerial photo of the drying condition of Limboto Lake in Gorontalo District, Gorontalo, Monday (12/8/2019).
Depth of the water in Limboto Lake has become shallow. ANTARA FOTO/Adiwinata Solihin/foc.
Repi opined that the local government’s response can be said to be serious since it had issued local regulation (Perda) No. 9 of 2017 on the Spatial Plan for the Lake Limboto Provincial Strategic Area.

However, the government's approach is still limited to the physical aspect and not to the cultural ecology aspect.

Repi strongly believes that this lake was not only a basin and about water infiltration but essentially also the identity of the Gorontalo people.

An environmental activist in Gorontalo, Rahman Dako, also responded to the painting with a different story.

Dako noted that recently, the Ministry of Public Works and Spatial Planning, through the Sulawesi II River Basin (BWS) Office, will build three islands in the middle of Lake Limboto.

Rahman pointed to several unanswered questions pertaining to the island's development. If the plan is realized, BWS will bag a mega project, but the area around the lake would still be inundated by flooding.

"I do not know what the officers of BWS have in mind that they are determined to ask for hundreds of billions of funds just to build the island and destroy the lake ecosystem and the history of the Gorontalo people," he affirmed.

Christopel Paino, a journalist from Mongabay Indonesia, who perceives Iwan's painting as a time machine, held another opinion.

"He not only invites us to remember the past but also invites us to see the future of Gorontalo, whether dark or light," he stated in the graffiti.

Paino, through his writings, often focuses on environmental issues, including those related to Limboto Lake.

An arts worker and lecturer at Gorontalo State University (UNG), Zulkipli Lubis, too lauded the work of art.

Lubis believes every work of art that is created always bears some message that the creator is keen to project.

The AKAD painting is a reminder for Lubis that people should always preserve Limboto Lake as well as the memory on the ancestral warriors, who had united the people of Gorontalo.

"This traveling exhibition program offers an extraordinary inner experience for us that we never exist without doing anything," he stated.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this exhibition is really quiet but noisy.


Fisherman story

Not only dedicated to Limboto Lake, the traveling exhibition is also presented to fishermen, who make a living from the lake.

Yusuf wants to preserve his memories with Rudin Ishak, a fisherman whom he admires and had passed away in 2016.

He then spoke about Rudin, who lived and looked after his fish cages in the eastern part of Lake Limboto.

Rudin is the person, who contributed to creating Iwan's artwork titled “Lahilote.”

Lahilote's work is formed by a conglomeration of water hyacinths visualized as a giant foot print in the middle of Limboto Lake

“When we were desperate for the water hyacinth dragging technique, he was the one, who found the best way. Thanks to him, we were able to complete the work,” he recollected.

The figure of a fisherman is also one of the sources of inspiration for Iwan in his boat series.

At one point in time, he was keen to buy Rudin's old boat, though it did not materialize since the fisherman did not want to let go and exchange his memories, spanning 15 years, with rupiah.

“The boat was not sold but instead he gave it to me. From there I learned about the priceless relationship between Rudin's memories and his boat,” Iwan stated.

The boat is currently displayed in his studio in East Java to honor Rudin and the other fishermen, who make a living from Limboto Lake.

It seems that this painting not only frames civilization but is also emblematic of longing and hope while portraying the story to the eyes that peer at it.


Related news: Lake Limboto charm festival sets off to spectacular start

Related news: EARTH WIRE -- Efforts underway to restore Lake Limboto in Gorontalo


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